People who watched Wednesdays presidential debate were surprised by the strong performance of Republican challenger Mitt Romney and the lackluster showing of President Barack Obama.
Decisive moments in presidential debates have been known to help or harm candidates. But Gov. Romney and President Obamas first meeting has reset the race for the Oval Office.
In the weeks prior to the debate, the president was building a lead in the polls. After the 90-minute forum, Republicans found their enthusiasm renewed. Democrats were disappointed.
The day after the debate, Mr. Romney wrote an email to donors, saying victory is in sight. Republicans said they believed their candidate had improved his standing in the race. Democrats said they would change their strategy for the next two debates.
Americans could sense on Thursday a momentum shift in the presidential race. Appearing in Fishersville, Va., the next day with his running mate, Paul Ryan, Mr. Romney said: Last night was an important night for this country.
Democrats tried to regroup. In Madison, Wis., President Obama said the real Romney did not show up at the debate, suggesting that the Republican changed his positions often on taxes, health care and Wall Street reform. Gov. Romney may dance around his positions, the president said. He may do a tap dance and a two-step but if you want to be president, then you owe the American people the truth.
Yet Democrats lamented that the president did not make those same points during the debate. They were surprised that Mr. Obama never mentioned Mr. Romneys earlier videotaped comments that seemed to dismiss 47 percent of Americans as reliant on the federal government.
Democratic analysts have observed that Mr. Romney had a good night but there are many more miles to travel on the campaign trail for both candidates.
The next debate should be interesting.